In just a little over one full business day, the Allen County Clerk’s Office issued nearly 60 marriage licenses to same-sex couples immediately after a federal court ruling.
Couples wanting to marry lined up outside the courthouse doors before the start of business Thursday morning, eager to obtain the piece of paper making it all completely legal.
Allen County is one of the counties named in the federal lawsuit challenging the state’s gay marriage ban, and County Clerk Lisbeth Borgmann began issuing the licenses about 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.
While the online application form allowed only for male and female boxes to be indicated, Borgmann’s deputy clerks were correcting them by hand for same-sex couples.
It was not a process Adams County Clerk Gayla Rinehart was willing to undertake.
At the advice of the Adams County attorney, Rinehart said they told the two couples who had inquired – one by phone and one in person – that the county would not be issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the State Department of Health corrected the form.
Rinehart said the decision was made to protect the integrity of the legal document and both parties involved.
Any handmade corrections to the forms could invalidate them, she said.
Allen County magistrates, who handle the bulk of the civil ceremonies performed in the courthouse, were busy as most couples requested to be married immediately, partly out of fear the ruling would be put on hold.
U.S. District Judge Richard Young issued his ruling late Wednesday morning, and the decision opened the doors for same-sex marriage in the state the moment it was entered.
But Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller asked U.S. District Judge Richard Young to stay his ruling in the case while it makes its way through the appeals process, saying time was of the essence with marriages in violation of Indiana’s existing law have taken place, are taking place and will continue to take place.
Young has not yet ruled on Zoeller’s request.
At the advice of their county attorneys, clerks in Steuben and Wells counties were holding off on issuing licenses. They had been advised to wait until a ruling on Zoeller’s motion was handed down.
In Allen County, though, it was wedding central for much of the day Thursday.
Don Barni, 87, and his partner of more than eight years, Davey Boggs, 39, had planned to go to Chicago to marry in the near future but had always wanted to marry in Indiana.
Barni’s partner of 47 years died in 2006, and the two never married legally. Wednesday’s decision was one more historic change Barni witnessed in how gays and lesbians are treated by American society.
I felt like I spent my whole life waiting for this day, he said. I’ve seen a lot of change.
Boggs said he found out about Wednesday’s ruling on Facebook and they had not even had time to call and tell all their family and friends they were getting married. They wanted to do it as quick as possible, before something changed.
The paper comes first, Boggs said. There was a fear. It almost seems unceremonious to get it done this way.
But his neighbor on the bench reminded him that this way, quickly and soon after the ruling, was to be a part of history.
Rod Kuhn, 60, and his partner Roger Meneely, 65, are both from West Virginia and met in North Carolina. They have been together for 23 years.
Kuhn said he cried for 45 minutes upon hearing of the ruling.
I didn’t expect to feel that way, he said. It legitimized my entire life, everything I’ve ever been.
The ability to marry in Fort Wayne turned the city from a place where the couple lived to their home, he said.
Moments before Allen Circuit Court Magistrate Andrea Trevino came out of her office to bring them back for the ceremony, Boggs fetched four small cups of water from a nearby water cooler.
He distributed it to the three other men as they waited.
To us, one said, lifting the cone-shaped cup.
Jeff Wiehe of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.